I’m Bill. Don’t like fantasy. Never cared about The Lord of the Rings. Watch The Fellowship of the Ring every week as part of a science experiment about movies. Just watched The Two Towers for the first time a few days ago. About to watch The Return of the King for the first time. (Kinda. Second half was on at a friend’s house once. Wasn’t paying attention.) Let’s go.

Okay, what?

What the–?

Whaaaaaat.

Apologies for the wordy analysis there, but truly, “what” is the only sound I could make for the entirety of the pre-movie cartoon that was Gollum Rises. I think it embodies the worst elements of every prequel: it tries to blow our minds with a character looking completely different, it puts a spin on something we’ve already seen but isn’t actually that interesting (ooh, that was someone else’s hand in Fellowship?), and it clunkily plods its way to the first time somebody says his omnipresent catchphrase.

“Bond. James Bond.”

I guess I was a little shocked that Gollum (I can hear you getting pissed that I’m not calling him “Sméagol,” nerds) killed somebody to get the Ring. Sure, killing somebody to keep the Ring, that makes sense. But the takeaway I get from this scene is that Gollum was always a murderous prick, so fuck ‘im. Who cares? I dunno, it kinda stifles the whole addiction metaphor when he was willing to off somebody before he’d even had a taste of the stuff.

Sorta seems like Frodo’s gettin’ off light with a finger bite.

Oops, didn’t mean to get ahead of myself there. So on to the next scene, which is… yeah, okay, this crap kinda blurs together, there’s no way I can keep this chronological. Witch-king of Angmar, you’re up.

“Howdy!”

So last time I checked, this guy was a mini-menace back in Fellowship, when he was a faceless, indistinct member of the Ringwraiths whose only claim to fame was being the dude that stabbed Frodo. I thought of him like a Stormtrooper or a Bond villain henchman, but out of nowhere, he gets a special Bad Guy Hat and suddenly he’s a major threat without his backup dancers? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very scary hat. Still, what are his qualifications to–

Oh. Alright, all you had to say was “big-ass dragon.”

And then there’s that prophecy bullshit. I hate prophecies. I always have, and I foresee that I always will. Fuck biblical prophecies, fuck MacBeth prophecies, fuck Star Wars prophecies. They’re all vaguely worded shit with some loophole. Ooh, somebody can only be killed by an arrow crafted by a baby? Whoops, they fell onto a “One Way” sign painted by Jennifer Grey! Why does the future hate specifics so much? Anyway, Witch-king can’t be killed by a man, but guess what? Man with a capital “M” is just one of many races in Middle-earth. So a Hobbit, Elf, Dwarf, Orc, a goddamn horse with a sword duct-taped to its head… these are all options! But never mind, let’s go with the one that’s sexist as fuck.

IT IS A VERY BIG DEAL THAT A GIRL IS PICKING UP A SWORD.

Sure, yes, you could argue that this is symbolically feminist, that you must be a villain if you don’t expect a woman to be an able fighter. I’m not making this up, someone on the LOTR reddit praised Tolkien for not having Éowyn kill the Witch-King in “some ‘womanly’ way like poison.” But does this scene have that Rosie the Riveter oomph when they really just needed her for the tokenism of fulfilling a prophecy… and there are only two other female characters in the entire nine-and-a-half-hour ordeal, neither of whom stab a damn thing? I know “strong female character” doesn’t mean “kills shit,” but not a single male in this franchise picks up a weapon over a prophecy. They pick up weapons because shit needs killin’. Éowyn may have combat skills, but her “super progressive for the 1950s” inclusion into this story serves about as much purpose as the aforementioned horse with a sword duct-taped to its head.

Filmmaking tip: If A Kid in King Arthur’s Court does it better, you are fucking up.

I was just gonna drop that picture caption and move on, but no, dammit, this is important. If you haven’t seen A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (which should be the norm unless you’re frighteningly obsessed with time travel movies), there’s a scene where Kate Winslet’s character is supposed to marry the winner of a jousting contest, but surprise, the winner was actually her in disguise. Yeah, it’s hacky writing and a pretty obvious reveal, but at the very least, she’s standing up to her father and her male-centric society’s goofy gender rules. Reminder: THIS IS THE MOVIE WHERE A KID ROLLERBLADES THROUGH A CASTLE. Now, you can argue that Kid was influenced by Tolkien’s book (not that he invented this trope), but the fact remains that it’s succeeding where another film fails: Princess Winslet is sticking it to The Man to prove herself, whereas Éowyn stabs her way through a loophole because of some silly magic spell that requires a vagina to work. At the end of the day, she’s still fitting in where the men need her, specifically because she’s a woman, whether it’s her choice or not. And no, I don’t have a suggestion for how the filmmakers could have better adapted such dusty source material for modern times. I mean, it’s not like you can just add extra female–

*slide whistle*

Ugh, right, back to whatever the fuck happens in Return of the King.

Hey, look, the guy from Fringe.

I used up all my Paying Attention to Shitty Kings energy in The Two Towers, so I was pretty bored by Boromir’s dad up there. At least the last shitty king had, like, a zombie virus, and eventually turned into a good king. This guy just turns into a campfire.

Come on, man, at least give us a Curly Howard “woo woo woo” on your way out.

Much like with The Two Towers, I enjoyed the battle scenes quite a bit. I’m all for ghost soldiers, giant elephants, and dragons. And again, I didn’t care about which side was which. You know, I’m starting to realize: I have a very bro-ish enjoyment of LOTR. I like when things go ka-boom, I don’t care about the intricate intertwinings of all the kingdoms and clans and Fungdunglers of Krärzhvghplooong. And I know that feeling, Rings fans, because I can’t stand it when people only like Star Trek for the ‘splosions and violence, and in case you weren’t aware, audiences are eating up Star Trek: Punch Everyone in the Fucking Face right now. So I can understand why you’d rather I hate The Lord of the Rings than enjoy only the most action-packed moments, but the fact remains that OH, HOLD ON, THIS PART’S AWESOME.

Fuck that elephant UP.

I really don’t know what else I can add about The Return of the King that hasn’t been mentioned by countless other Rings watchers, from the eagles plot hole to the overabundance of fake endings to the fact that the Eye of Sauron looks like a drunken lighthouse.

“Ugh, Frondo, buddy, you’re–*brrrmp*–you have to drive, man.”

I’ll go out on this: I really don’t understand the Best Picture win. Parts of it were amazing, but as a whole, I find it about as baffling as Revenge of the Sith taking home the little statue. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing the Academy would go for: big CGI clusterfucks, lots of green screen, no cotton candy versions of pressing social issues. What am I missing? Were there threats of nerd outrage? Were the other nominees that terrible? Well, that’s an article for another time, as is my very next viewing, where I decide if The Fellowship of the Ring really is the weakest film in the trilogy.

TO BE CONTINUED…